Tell the stories of women, urges Sisulu

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Struggle heroine Albertina Sisulu would have wanted stories of the unnamed women, who marched to the Union Buildings in 1956, told, her daughter-in-law Elinor Sisulu said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a panel discussion on Albertina Sisulu’s centenary, Elinor said the stories of most of the 20 000-strong women, who marched to the high offices of t then apartheid South Africa, have largely remained unknown.

“I think if there’s one thing we can do to pay tribute to Ma Sisulu is to collect the stories of those women. Let’s pay tribute to those unnamed, unrecognised women - the unsung heroes of our struggle,” said Elinor.

The wife of the former Speaker of the National Assembly, Max Sisulu, recalled a conversation she had had with Ma Sisulu on the historic march to the nation’s centre of power on 9 August 1956, where women protested against the introduction of pass laws. Ma Sisulu was one of the leaders of that March.

Elinor, a writer and historian, urged the country to obtain such stories.

“It’s really an important part of our history, which is fast fading,” she said, adding that there is a trend among young people across the continent to shun their history.

“There is a discourse among young people today, which is actually dumping the history that we have,” she said, as she recalled an incident last year where young people placed dead rats at the statue of former President Nelson Mandela.

Such incidents, she said, were a deep rejection of one’s history.

“I’m not saying one needs to be uncritical about our history. I have no problem with criticism but that kind of rejection and disrespect and almost wanting to cut off from that history is very dangerous for a society with a racial history such as ours.”

“I believe strongly that history is an integral part of one’s identity and one of the things we are suffering from, not only in South Africa but across the continent, is a lack of historical knowledge by young Africans,” she said.

She said Ma Sisulu’s legacy needs to be honoured. The wife of struggle stalwart Walter and a heroine in her own right would have celebrated her 100th birthday on 21 October.

Women emancipation

Also speaking at the panel discussion, Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) acting Director General Phumla Williams said the emancipation of women was still a challenge.

“Fast forward to where we are in the journey of fighting for the emancipation of women, there are so many policies that have been put in place in the public service. My view is that it’s not yet uhuru for women,“ said Williams.

Lecturer and political analyst Sithembile Mbethe said South Africa’s news media is still male focused.

“The four main areas that gets spoken about in news mainly sport, the economy, crime and politics. In all of those areas women are represented the least. In sport, women are only spoken about 9% of the time and in economy only 17% of the time, while in politics at only 17% of the time,” said Mbethe.

This year, South Africa is marking two important centenaries. The main centenary is dedicated to former President Nelson Mandela, followed in equal importance by the centenary of Ma Sisulu. -

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